Tiya Dely–Up-close and personal


No disrespect to Barbara Walters but
her  record as a media diva pales in comparison to the 69-year reign of Tiya Dely Magpayo as  the Dame of Philippine Radio.

 For almost seven decades, Tiya Dely remained on top as a radio superstar.
Yet she was more than that, for Tiya Dely was also an athlete, a singer
and a movie actress.

At 86, (when this interview happened) she was the epitome of elegance—-fair
and slender and regal—physical attributes that complimented her stature as the Filipinos’
national confidante.

“I was an athlete kaya siguro medyo diretso akong tumayo,”
she said when complimented about her bearing. “And I was trained to be
lady-like in school.”

“My first passion was baseball,
and then I did softball. I also tried track and field but my favorite is
softball. My unfulfilled dream was my inability to be a volleyball athlete for
the Olympic games. Nagkagiyera kasi.”

The early frustration didn’t ruffle Tiya Dely for she had many aces up her
sleeves. For one, she can sing. In fact, singing was her passport to radio
superstardom. “During the 40’s, you cannot be a radio personality if you can’t
sing”, she said.

Her singing talent was first put to
good use during the senatorial campaign of Manuel Roxas, where she was one of
the featured singers in the political rallies.

“When Roxas won, I was assigned at
the Senate and eventually transferred to Malacanang as the confidential
secretary of then DFA Secretary Elpidio Quirino, pero actually receptionist lang
And because my boss was the Foreign Affairs Secretary, I was influenced
into taking Foreign Service.”

As a working student, Tiya Dely earned P120 a month. She
finished Foreign Service from Far Eastern University with a major in Political  Science in 1950, three years before her
rebirth as Tiya Dely  via DZRH’  “Mga
Liham Kay Tiya Dely.”  

As a singer, she also performed on
stage during the Japanese occupation, with actors such as Angel Esmeralda. She
also managed to do several records like “Pamaypay
ng Maynila
” and  “Una Kong Pag-ibig.”

It was no surprise therefore that
when it came to Filipino music, she had an opinion. And it’s quite strong. “I
hope the new singers won’t modernize the kundiman.
Even the Christmas songs recorded by Villar Records, minodernize nila. I dont
like it. The kundiman should
be sang as written by the composers. Bahagi
culture natin yan.”

She continued, “This reminds me of
Atang dela Rama, who was so furious when Ryan Cayabyab and Celeste Legazpi modernized
her songs. She called me and said, minarder
daw ang kanta namin.
I just reasoned that it was their style.

“I prefer the kundiman over pop songs because kundiman
is forever. These are the works of
(Nicanor) Abelardo, (Francisco) Santiago
and (Juan) Buencamino like “Bituing
Marikit”,” Ako’y Isang Ibong Sawi”,
and “Madaling Araw”.  They’re

On the side, Tiya Dely also worked as an actress and appeared in the successful ‘Sebya’ series with Pugo, who, she said,
had thought her the value of timing in comedy.

For all her accomplishments, she
was most stellar as a radio personality. She was the pioneer in the advice format but she also did well in other shows like the talent search “Hamon sa Kampeon” and
the  kundiman program “Serenatang

When asked about her extra-ordinary staying
power, she was thoughtful. “Bakit
nga ba?,
she mused. “I don’t really think about it but I sure enjoy my
work. Hindi naman trabaho itong akin. Haharap
ka lang sa
mic at magkukuwento. Ano
nga kaya?

She managed to reveal one
secret  though. “Off the microphone, I am a very good listener. By just
listening, I get to learn new things that I share on the air. ‘Di ba, maganda rin yung nakikinig ka lamang?”

As a woman, she had a few passions. “Ang hilig ko lang naman, damit at
.” For her wardrobe and ternos,
she went to Nesty of Rafaela, her designer for ten years. I go for vegetables
and fish but I also like lechon.
Every two hours, I get hungry. Pero kapag
sinabi ng tiyan ko na tama na,
I would stop eating even if I still have the

Dely came from a family of intellectuals. Her grandfather was Miguel Magpayo,
who constructed the Barasoain
Church in Bulacan.

She was married to the late Col.
Leonor Reyes who was in the Traffic Control Group of the Philippine
Constabulary.  She said, “He was never
insecure about my career. He used to be in the military but he retired and
joined me on the radio as a writer and director. As a wife, our friends said na takot daw ang husband ko sa akin. He was everybody’s kabarkada,  a very
kind and understanding man.”

“I have three children, Violeta, Delia,
and Leonor Jr,” she continued. “Hindi
mababaw ang luha ko.
 But I cried
when my children died. I lost Violeta to cancer. She was very intelligent. She took
two courses from U.E,  summa cum laude sa isa, at magna cum laude
naman sa pangalawa.
My only son Leonor Jr. also died very young. Sa kanya ako nagka-apo sa tuhod, si Jello.
My daughter Delia is the one helping me now.”

Like her husband, Tiya Dely was also loyal to her friends.
“It’s my basic principle. Kapag
nakipagkaibigan ka, tapat ka.
I will stand by a friend no matter what
happen. It doesn’t matter if my decision is unpopular, because I know the

Malaki rin ang utang na loob ko kay (Ramon)
Magsaysay. When Florentino Daz made a record as the first Filipino to sail on
boat from Hawaii to Philippines, I was sent by DZRH to
cover his grand welcome in Malacanang.  I
was clueless. So, I just stood there amid the throng of male reporters. Eh nahalata yata ni Magsaysay na bagito ako. He approached me, took my
microphone at doon nagsalita. Nung
bumalik ako sa
station, akala nila
ang galing-galing ko.”

Tiya Dely also considered the
ill-fated Magsaysay as the best President of the republic. “He was very
much loved by the people. He opened the Palace to the masses. At saka, kapag nagpupunta ‘yan sa Camp Aguinaldo,
walang bodyguard. He drives his own

She added, “I admire people who love
our country, like President (Manuel) Quezon.
The Philippines could
have been the 49th state of the United
States, pero
hindi siya pumayag
. I also admire heroes like (Jose) Rizal. He was well to
do and yet.  Ma-tsiks din yun. (Andres) Bonifacio, because he was brave, and the
rich young men who sacrificed for the country  like (Juan) Luna and  Plaridel (Marcelo del Pilar).

Among the present crop of leaders, she
singled out Gina de Venecia as the most fascinating.  “I admire her strength”, she said.

Dely Magpayo was a remarkable gem and through the years, she had been an icon of
grace, professionalism and excellence.

comments, send e-mail to gypsybaldovino@yahoo.com)


2 thoughts on “Tiya Dely–Up-close and personal

  1. Hello! Just wanted to correct you that Tiya Dely had a 69-year old career, starting as a singer in 1939. And to let you know that we have brought back, for sentimental reasons, “Serenatang Kumbidahan” in dWIZ882-AM (webcast in dwiz882.com) every Sunday evening from 7-8PM. -Dd Magpayo

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